Wet wipes to be banned across the UK because of plastic

Wet wipes containing plastic will be banned across the UK to reduce marine litter. The supply and sale of wet wipes containing plastic will be banned following overwhelming support during public consultation, with 95% of respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing with the proposals.

Measures have been set out in a joint response by all four UK nations published today, including a transition period for businesses to help them prepare. The four nations all launched a consultation on the ban of the products last autumn and today's announcement is a response to that review.

The ban will be brought through separately by each of the UK's governments. Wet wipes frequently litter Britain's beaches and eventually break down into microplastics, which contribute to water pollution and damage ecosystems.

Jane Martin, chief executive of environmental organisation City To Sea, said: "It's a positive step forward to see the government take definitive action on banning this pollutant, but action must not end there.

"The government should now look to tackle all single-use plastic products through further bans and mandated reuse and refill targets."

The Welsh Government said its ban would come into force by June 2026. Scotland said it would introduce regulations later this year with the aim of a ban taking effect by the middle of 2026. Steve Barclay said in England the legislation would be fast tracked and shops given an 18-month deadline to comply by the middle of 2026.

The Scottish Government said the ban continues its history of cutting down on plastic litter, including introducing a charge for carrier bags in 2014, the ban on plastic-stemmed cotton buds in 2019, and a ban on a single-use plastic food items in 2022.

Scottish ministers will introduce regulations by the end of 2024 with the ban due to come into force 18 months later, although several shops have stopped selling them. Wet wipes containing plastic do not biodegrade and persist for many years, harming wildlife and the environment, and are a source of microplastic pollution.

From 2015 to 2020, an average of 20 wet wipes were found per 100m of beach surveyed across the UK according to Defra Beach Litter Monitoring Data. Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity Lorna Slater said: “I am delighted to confirm today that the Scottish Government will ban wet wipes containing plastic.

“These items are a problematic source of marine litter and are a threat to the health of our environment and wildlife. This ban delivers on an important commitment made in our Marine Litter Strategy and builds on previous actions to ban unnecessary single-use plastic items such as plastic-stemmed cotton buds and plastic straws and cutlery.

“These policies are all proof of the progress Scotland is making toward protecting our environment, and all contribute to our journey toward a circular economy.”

In England, cabinet minister Steve Barclay said: “Building on the strong public support received, we are pleased to announce that we are introducing a ban on the supply and sale of wet wipes containing plastic across the UK.

“This ban builds on positive action taken across the UK to reduce plastic pollution. It will help to reduce the volume of plastic litter as well as microplastics entering our waterways, making our land and oceans cleaner and healthier.”